enamel vs latex paint

Enamel Vs Latex Paint – Major Difference

It’s usually hard to differentiate between enamel vs latex paint once it cures. For several years, people have mostly used both types of paint to protect interior and exterior walls – and they’re both available in a wide range of finishes.

Now, if you’re ready to paint an area of your home, and you’re wondering which paint to choose between latex and enamel paint, then we’ve got you covered.

Here’s the point: Before settling for any paint, it’s always important to gain a clear understanding of the different types of paint available in the market such as acrylic, enamel, oil-based, and latex paint.

This will help you to better decide which one is more suitable for your projects. Now, let’s quickly demystify and compare between enamel paint vs latex and every other thing you need to know about these paints.

Enamel Vs Latex Paint

Enamel Paint Vs Latex Paint

Basically, what determines the contents within a paint is the advertising label – but is usually rather misleading.

Talking about latex paints, most interior and exterior water-based paint out there often suggests that it is a latex! But there is often no latex in the product. Instead, they use the word latex only to describe the paint’s properties.

The term describes the level of malleability and versatility in that particular paint product. This is unique for climate change and expansion joints. But using the word “latex” still doesn’t explain the paint’s contents.

The same theory applies to the use of the word “enamel.” Enamel is primarily used for interior house paints – but there’s actually no enamel in the paint itself.

The term “enamel” simply explains the quality of the finish after the painting project. Enamel paint delivers a smooth, hard finish that will last a very long time.

In most cases, paint manufacturers use “enamel” on their premium products, simply because it’s an attractive descriptive word, making the paint appear more beautiful, glossy, and durable.

Safety Difference

Oil-based enamel paint is generally known for its strong, irritating odor – and is notably more toxic than water-based latex paints.

If you’re not careful while painting with enamel paint, you may end up suffering from dizziness, eye irritation, or breathing issues.

Latex paint, on the other hand, has an odor that is different and milder than that of enamel. Just like enamel paints, latex paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOC), which travel into the air once you start painting.

VOC takes the form of gases like benzene, formaldehyde, acetone, and toluene. Whether you choose to use acrylic latex paint or enamel oil paint, you want to go for a zero-VOC or low-VOC paint to reduce the associated health risk.

It’s also important to ensure that the room is well ventilated before painting. Have fans running, open windows, and wear a mask or mouth filter while applying either type of paint.

It’s also worth noting that paint fumes can affect the elderly and children negatively, which is why you should endeavor to keep them out of the room until the paint is entirely dry.

Interestingly, latex paint is considered a safer option than enamel when it comes to avoiding eye and skin irritation.

Drying Time and Finish

latex vs enamel

Oil-based enamel paint generally takes a longer time to dry to touch, but once it dries, the finish is often long-lasting and amazing.

Additionally, oil-based paints can’t be cleaned with water; you’ll need a paint thinner to remove it from surfaces.

On the contrary, latex paint dries much faster, and it can be easily cleaned with any splatters or messes with water.

Can Latex Paint Be Enamel Paint Too?

The word “enamel” was previously used to reference the harder finish of oil paints. Enamel and oil paint were virtually synonymous words.

However, recent developments in latex paint production have resulted in stronger, smoother finishes. Because of this, some paint manufacturers have also started using the term “enamel” for their water-based latex paints.

For this comparison, oil-based paint will be considered the same as enamel paint, due to the premium, hard finish that oil paint produces.

That said, latex water-based paint is the clear competitor in the market.

Which Paint For Which Surface?

Comparing enamel paint vs. latex, if you want the ease of use, latex paint is the best option. However, for some projects, you need the high-end, timeless quality of good enamel paint.

Most professional painters always prefer to use latex paint for walls, and then use oil-based enamel paint for trim, window frames, and doors. This is because those areas often suffer rough usage in the home, so they a more durable surface.

Additionally, oil-based enamel paint offers a rock-hard, smooth, and sleek finish that acrylic latex paints can’t beat.

However, it’s worth mentioning that water-based latex paints never match well with metal surfaces. Using a water-based paint product to metal is a recipe for rust. So you want to go for the oil-based enamel for any metal paint job.

Finally, latex paint is generally ideal for painting deck flooring or porch, drywall, plaster, siding, and stucco.

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What is enamel paint best for?

Enamel paint can be used on copper, metal surfaces, glass, wood, plastic, and even walls. The paint is resistant to moisture, and it’s perfect for surfaces that need to be washed multiple times.

What is latex enamel paint used for?

All Surface Enamel is designed for use on interior and exterior wood, metal, drywall, and other surfaces. This high quality coating provides excellent resistance to weather and sunlight, maintaining its gloss and color.

What is the difference between enamel and regular paint?

Main Differences Between Enamel and Paint

Enamel is a type of paint whereas paint includes a wide range of different types of paints. Enamel provides the glossy finish on the other hand, not every paint provides the glossy finish when compared to enamel. Enamel is washable but every paint is not washable.

Can you paint latex over enamel?

Contrary to popular belief, you can apply latex paint over enamel. But you must do the required preparation work first to avoid peeling paint in the furture. Clean, dull, dry and prime the enamel surface before you paint. You can use either latex or oil-based primer.

Is latex enamel paint waterproof?

Enamel Paint is waterproof if it is oil-based or lacquer-based but it will only stick to some surfaces like uncoated wood without preparation. So most surfaces like metal or stone have to be prepared with a primer before painting them or the paint may not last long.

Can you use enamel paint on walls?

Enamel paint is mostly used for painting the exterior walls of the house while acrylic paint is used to paint the interior of the house. Enamel paint finish takes a comparatively longer period to dry than acrylic paint. Enamel paint is an oil-based paint finish while acrylic paint is a water-based paint.

Is Behr enamel paint latex?

BEHR PREMIUM PLUS Interior Semi-Gloss Enamel Paint is a 100% acrylic paint & primer that contains an antimicrobial agent to help protect the surface of the paint film from mold and mildew. This finish resists stains, moisture and wear, provides exceptional durability, hide, and a radiant, sleek appearance.

Is enamel a primer?

So in short, Enamel Paints do sometimes need a topcoat or a primer and in some cases even both. Enamel paint generally leaves a smooth, glossy, and appealing look after drying up. However, depending on the type of surface and temperature of the room or area, it may be advisable to apply both a primer and a topcoat.

Do you need primer for enamel paint?

It is recommended to use a layer of primer before applying the enamel paint, especially on interior surfaces, furniture, cabinets and molding. Some brands of enamel paint are even formulated with built-in primers that improve adhesion.

Do you need to sand between coats of enamel paint?

No need to sand in between coats unless you have little nibs or imperfections you want to remove. If I do sand I’ll use 320 grit. If you wait more than a week or so you may want to sand, but certainly not the next day or two.


Like I mentioned above, oil-based enamel paint used to be the product of choice for house painting jobs that needs a durable finish.

However, modern improvements to the quality of latex paint have made it the preferred option for a wide variety of projects.

Hopefully, with this enamel and latex paint comparison, coupled with your own research, you will be able to decide which paint type will be needed for specific areas in your home.

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